—for DKD, 1954-2018
The pounding on the roof wakes me and I rise
to find a river running down the street, leaves
and hailstones bobbing boats in night’s icy shine.
I check my phone for news of my brother,
taken yesterday to the ER when words stopped
working. Brain tumors: plural, inoperable.
Just last month, he and I posed for a selfie
at a family wedding. His corny jokes,
his smile, his wit—all were still there.
Only now does he reveal the pounding
in his head that started so long ago
he can’t quite remember when. At dawn,
I walk out back—hundreds of leaves litter
the ground. The hailstones were small
but froze fast and hard into bombs of ice.
The tumors are called astrocytoma
for their jagged star-shaped shards.
My brother’s brain begins to bleed.
I sweep the patio clean of leaves
but mark what remains on the trees, the green
of living closing ranks around the wounds
of twigs torn loose, their absence a thing
you can hardly see. On my morning walk,
rows of yellow snapdragons planted along
a fence startle me with bedraggled sadness,
raucous blossoms no more here than a brother’s
last silly joke whispered in my ear.